Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy – Everything You Must Know
We often think of low blood pressure as being a uniformly good thing and high blood pressure as being a bad thing. But in fact, low blood pressure can be just as much of a risk. Like the plumbing in your house, the pressure in your closed cardiovascular system is there to help the heart pump blood around your body. It pushes it against gravity and ensures that it reaches your brain.
Low blood pressure is pretty common during pregnancy and of course this is a dangerous time to potentially risk fainting or falling. In this article, we’ll take a look at what causes low blood pressure during pregnancy and how you can manage it.
Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Before we continue, let’s first consider the role of blood pressure and the impact that pregnancy can have on it.
Blood pressure describes the amount of pressure in the closed system that is your circulatory system. Just like plumbing in your house, your body needs pressure to push blood around. Your heart can then pump in order to ‘push’ the blood through your veins and get it to where it needs to be.
Changes in blood pressure tend to be the result of various things: either the heart rate speeding up or slowing down, the blood vessels getting wider or narrower, or the amount or viscosity of the blood changing.
Anything that is below 90/60 is considered low blood pressure and this means that the veins are too open, the blood is too thin, or the heart isn’t pumping fast or hard enough. This is what we are looking out for during pregnancy.
Because blood pressure is dependent on numerous factors, there are many things that can change it. For instance, hormones that cause vasoconstriction or dilation, or changes to the blood can both impact on your blood pressure. This is why we need to be extra careful during pregnancy.
Blood pressure can also change throughout the day though, which makes it somewhat difficult for a doctor to monitor. So, if you go to the doctor with low blood pressure during pregnancy or if they find it to be high during a routine test; they may just measure you then and there or they may send you home with something to test yourself with as you go about your usual routine. This can provide you with an average which will let you know if your low blood pressure is potentially a risk.
If you notice any symptoms of low blood pressure during pregnancy such as dizziness when standing up, then you should visit your doctor and follow the advice they provide you with.
That said though, it is also very important that you also know your own body and that you listen to what it is trying to tell you. Occasionally doctors can get it wrong, so know your health facts and take action where possible.
Dangers of Low Blood Pressure
When you experience low blood pressure levels during pregnancy or for any other reason, this can cause difficulties in getting the blood supply to your brain. You may feel light headed when you stand up, you may feel nauseous, you may be confused, you might notice your heartbeat more and you may even be at risk of fainting.
Vomiting may also occur as the body can misinterpret signs such as dizziness as being an indication of poisoning and therefore try to purge the stomach. This is a problem during pregnancy if it leads to dehydration.
Many different factors can affect blood pressure and cause it to become chronically high or low. The viscosity of the blood can play a role for instance, as can the width of the blood vessels carrying the blood around your system. Likewise, the heart can also have a big impact on blood pressure.
As you go through so many changes during pregnancy, it should come as no real surprise that your blood pressure can change too. But the key is to really make sure that low blood pressure ranges during pregnancy don’t get to the point where you’re struggling to stay upright or feeling unwell.
What is the Normal Blood Pressure for a Pregnant Woman
The first thing to recognize is that normal blood pressure ranges during pregnancy will vary a lot depending on the individual. It’s normal for your blood pressure to change slightly during pregnancy and this can go up slightly or down slightly. But for some women, very little change will be seen at all!
According to the American Heart Association, the normal blood pressure for pregnant women is slightly higher than the ideal at 120/80. This is actually the average blood pressure for the general population, because pregnancy can cause blood pressure to go either way, so again you shouldn’t be alarmed if you notice some change. The normal average also reflects the fact that blood pressure changes throughout pregnancy.
Why Does Blood Pressure Change During Pregnancy?
There are several specific factors during pregnancy that can affect your blood pressure. One reason is that you may release more of the hormone progesterone. This has the effect of ‘relaxing’ the walls of the blood vessels, causing something called ‘vasodilation’. This causes the veins and arteries to get wider so that more nutrients and oxygen can be delivered to the developing fetus. This also lowers your blood pressure, because you still have the same amount of liquid flowing through a wider vessel. Imagine drinking through a very wide straw, versus drinking through a very low straw! This has some health benefits in many cases though and can help to deliver more oxygen and blood to the brain as long as the heart can keep up.
If this drop is substantial, then you might find yourself feeling a little faint when you stand up too quickly. This is common during the first and second trimesters.
Your blood pressure will be lowest during mid-pregnancy. At this point, your blood pressure will begin to rise again from 24 weeks onward, because your body has most likely created more blood! Roughly 1.8 points to be precise, which your heart now needs to work harder to pump around.
In the last few weeks before the birth of your child, your blood pressure should return to a normal level.
How do You Treat Low Blood Pressure in Pregnancy?
You should get regular checkups during pregnancy and if you are found to have low blood pressure (technically known as hypotension) then treatment may be recommended. This will normally start with things you can do at home.
- Avoiding standing for long times
- Standing up slowly
- Wearing support socks (compressions stockings) to help provide extra pressure to the feet, legs and stomach to improve circulation
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Eat small, frequent meals to prevent postprandial hypotension. Avoid large meals.
Other options include:
- Increasing fluid and salt intake. Dehydration is a common cause of low blood pressure in pregnancy and increasing salt and fluid intake can help to address this problem. Make sure to use a good natural salt like Himalayan Salt!
- Changing any medication that may be contributing to low blood pressure. This is particularly true for a range of medications that impact on your hormones.
- Underlying conditions: It may be that you already had an underlying condition that was causing low blood pressure and that pregnancy simply drew attention to that issue. You may be referred to an endocrinologist who might recommend treatments for hormonal issues.
- You might be given medication specifically for low blood pressure. These medications will normally either work to narrow the blood vessels and combat the vasodilation or to increase the amount of blood you create.
Healthy Nutrition Options During Pregnancy:
- Foods with Vitamin B12: Eggs, Sardines, Salmon, Fortified Cereal, Mussels, Beef
- Vitamin D3: Especially if you are no sunbathing. This is important for the healthy bones of your child.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Fish like Flounder, Anchovies, Arctic char, Wild Alaska, Herring, Sturgeon, Tilapia, Striped bass and Pacific salmon are great options since they are small fish with a low risk of mercury contamination
- Foods With Folate: liver, asparagus, garbanzo beans
- Avoid High-Carb Foods
- Avoid oily, fried or spicy, refined and processed foods, because they usually slow down the metabolism and cause problems for the body
- Potassium and Magnesium-rich foods or other healthy foods like
- Vegetables and Fruits: Asparagus, leafy greens like spinach, Kale, Swiss chard, cantaloupe, bananas, white and sweet potatoes (with skin), citrus fruits like lemon, kiwi, tomatoes, papaya, beetroot
- Nuts: Walnuts, Almonds, Peanuts, Cashews, Peanuts
Combined with lifestyle changes and monitoring, these measures can help to manage low blood pressure in pregnancy. Make sure that you listen to your GP and that you follow their advice. This will help you to keep your blood pressure normal and avoid a nasty fall or another accident that can be particularly dangerous during pregnancy.
And remember: doctors can sometimes be wrong too and sometimes have ulterior motives. If you notice the symptoms in this article then you can try many of these fixes yourself at home. Also, listen to your body and double check what kind of nutrition is beneficial.
Also, this video might give you some additional tips and insight
Conclusions and When to Seek Medical Attention
If you ever suspect anything is wrong with your health during pregnancy, you should consult with a medical health professional. It is better to get checked up and find that you didn’t need it than the reverse – especially when pregnant! But do keep in mind that they are not always to be trusted and that knowing your own health facts is even more critical.
You should be getting regular checkups and these will help to flag up any issues. But likewise, look for the signs of low blood pressure ranges during pregnancy, such as the aforementioned dizziness and nausea. There are other potential causes for these issues, which is just one more reason to get checked up.
But don’t worry! The body goes through a lot of changes during this time as we have seen. It is probably normal!